Eat, pray, love, compute

eat-pray-love.jpgThe train broke down near Oshawa, Ont., and stayed there for more than an hour. Once all the grumbling and emergency cell phone calls to friends died down, it suddenly sounded like I was sitting in an office. All around me people were opening up laptops, fingers dancing over keyboards and making the most of the time. It was all the more extraordinary, therefore, to not only be sitting next to one of the few other people on the train who decided to read, but that we were reading the same book: Eat, Pray, Love.

My seatmate and I didn’t get a chance to discuss the book – she promptly pulled her jacket over her chest like a blanket and fell asleep – but she probably wouldn’t have been interested in my take on it anyway. Eat, Pray, Love was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, who tells the story of getting over a messy divorce by spending time in Italy, India and Indonesia. A self-described “seeker,” she takes up a serious interest in prayer and experiments with a variety of ways to find God. However one passage, about mid-way through the book, struck me as not only relevant to IT managers but offered an exercise worth trying.

While in Italy, Gilbert admits to a friend that she doesn’t feel she could ever live permanently in Rome. Her companion, who was born there, tells her that may be because she has a different word for it. His theory is that every city “has a single word that defines it, that identifies most of the people who live there.” Rome’s word, he informs Gilbert, is SEX. This prompts her to think about the key words for other cities (New York’s is ACHIEVE, she decides, while Los Angeles’s is SUCCEED) and for herself. “I know it’s not MARRIAGE,” she writes. “It’s not DEPRESSION any more, thank heavens . . . my word might be DEVOTATION, though this makes me sound more of a goody-goody than I am and doesn’t take into account how much wine I’ve been drinking.”

IT managers probably have their own words. Some might describe them as a group, while others might encompass the totality of their lives. As a profession, there are a few that readily come to mind, like INNOVATE, though that may be more “aspirational” than a reflection of reality. For a lot of them it’s more likely FIX, unfortunately. Depending on the kind of projects that make up much of their time, it could be IMPROVE, which combines a bit of both.

A number of large enterprises are more geographically distributed than cities, and a few employ nearly as many people as a metropolis. They don’t tend to boil down their essence to a single word but elaborate on it in a mission statement, but those who work there or deal with the company could probably offer up some suggestions (my word for Vial Rail Canada, for example, would be CHUG, which is not a compliment). Much like Gilbert’s quest for a sense of belonging, IT managers might want to think about how well their word matches with that of their surroundings.

I don’t think it gives much of Eat, Pray, Love

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